Diary/Photo Journal

Week of February 26, 2006

We left the Fazenda and headed toward our planned visit to Brasil's capital city, Brasilia.  On our way, we passed through a national park, Parque Estadual da Serra dos Pirineus.  This park was a beautiful and rather untouched pass that connect Pirenopolis to the outskirts of Brasilia.  A much smoother, yet longer route would have taken us around the mountains...and we always love the scenic route.  Besides, it was remarkable to see landscape and rock formations that date back to the Triassic Period (over 200 million years ago) when there was a southern super-continent called "Gondwanaland" (which included Antarctica, South America, Africa, Madagascar, India, Arabia, Australia, New Guinea and New Zealand).

Views from the Parque Estadual
da Serra dos Pirineus and a
view back to Pirenopolis
I always admire self-enterprise
A wonderful little coco juice stand
at the summit of the park

We tossed, turned, tripped and trundled down out of the park (it was a rather 'interesting' dirt road) and into Brasilia.  The Distrito Federal is quite unique and when designed and constructed, it was considered one of the 20th century's architectural marvels.  In 1987, Brasilia was designated by Unesco as a World Heritage site as a prominent example of the 20th century's modern movement in architecture and urban planning. 

In 1955, then President Juscelino Kubitschek proposed the moving of the capital city from Rio de Janeiro to the middle of the country, a region within the State of Goias.  By 1957, the project was under way and in just three years, with the help of millions of poor peasants working around the clock, the modern capital of Brasilia was officially "opened" on April 21, 1960.

The uniqueness of Brasilia is within its architectural, landscape and urban design.  When seen from above, Brasilia appears like an airplane with the "plano piloto" (pilot plan) specifying that the city would face the giant artificial Lago do Paranoa.  Within the "fuselage" are all the government buildings and monuments.  The "cockpit" is the location of the plaza of three powers - the Palacio do Planalto (the President's office), the Palacio do Congresso and the Palacio da Justica.   Extended on the "wings" are the apartment buildings for the majority of the city's workforce.

A map of the city shows the airplane design (taken from a
lonely planet guide)

The very modest Palacio do Planalto which is the President's office

A view across a open park to the Palacio do Congresso
(more than one thing reminded us of the design of Washington D.C.)

View over the "wings"
or the apartment buildings
with a passing storm

View from a TV tower
that allows visitors to
view the city from over
200 feet (75m)

We made our way around the city and reflected on how Brasilia, at the time of its construction, was definitely a wonderful spectacle of architecture and urban design.  Unfortunately, the city has fallen into the same rut that so many once-gifted cities fall into - disrepair and lack of upkeep.  The government buildings that once must have sparkled white, are now dull and weather-stained and they all seem to be in need of a good cleaning.  The outskirts of the young city are being taken over by "favelas" and entering the city from any direction takes you through several lights of people begging for money and views to the slums. 

In a way, it is typical of what many of us see in our every day - someone acquires something new and just fails to maintain the item.  In other words, it loses they let it lose its luster.  However, on a brighter side, there are newer buildings that are reviving the architecture from the drab stone that remains to shiny glass enclosures that capture and reflect the magnificent sky that seems to surround you in this flat urban expanse.

JK (President
Juscelino Kubitschenk)
memorial - reaching for the sky

The more modern architecture that
mirrors the sky

The Catedral with its statues of
the Four Disciples, the impressive stained
glass exterior and the soaring angels

We only spent the day in Brasilia as we wanted to return to Goiania and Kike's "resort" for the evening feast and fun.  Also, we needed a good night's sleep for our early jaunt south to Rio Quente, a fabulous thermal/water park resort that was like nothing I had ever experienced.

Rio Quente is a huge resort nestled in a valley that is a basin for massive thermal water ponds.  These crystal clear waters maintain a balmy and therapeutic temperature of 37.5C (~105F) and are always on the move (as they are truly rivers). 

The admission, food and drink were quite inexpensive; however, some of the activities' costs could be quite steep.  Activities included SCUBA diving, snorkeling, kayaking, tubing, rafting, rappelling, rock climbing, zip-lining, sliding, pedal boating, swimming (of course) along with an awesome half-pipe ride and a serious of racing tube slides.  Add to this pool-bars, water volleyball, water dancing, children's pools, fountain pools and a number of cascades to sit under, the park was amazing.

View of the part to the hotel

Let the water games begin
(that includes the drinking)

A view across the wondrous park

The park sparks romance in everything

The SCUBA/snorkeling pool

Crystal clear water and very large fish

Rappelling, a zip line, a sky chair,
kayaking, rock climbing...awesome

We opted for the snorkeling as the water was a maximum of 20 feet deep (about 6m) and we can free dive that easily.  We paid a little extra for the "scooter" which is a battery-operated, underwater propeller that cruised our lazy butts through the dive area.  Diving to the bottom was easier than holding our breath and we had a blast, an absolute blast. 

We cruised all over and thankfully, the necessary guide acknowledged our SCUBA experience and let us meander through the incredibly unique thermal water plants.  And, to make the excursion that much more awesome, was the relatively tame massive fish.  We would just cut our propellers, glide up to the fish and take our time "petting" the fish.  I even think I saw a couple of the fish smile at us as they trailed along in our wake.  It was just really a cool warm place to play.

Water dancing to the live music

The massive half-pipe slide
you could hear the screams
across the park

All geared up for the raft ride
through the rapids

The park was very conscious of its
environmental responsibility

Another venture that we could not resist was the rafting through the rapids.  Even though the ride was relatively short (about 1000m or 3000'), it was a warm, wet, wild ride.  You know you are in for a rather bumpy trip when you are padded and guarded from head to toe (we were given helmets, padded body vests, webbed gloves, leg guards and thick, rubber booties).  The ride consists of you laying face down on a long, narrow inflatable raft and you just point down-river and go.  Rocks just serve as bumpers and the narrows as chutes that propel you through the melee.  I must have ingested a gallon of water as I was laughing so hard all the way down.  What a rush!

At the end of the day, we were wondrously exhausted and reluctantly made our way back to Kike's home.  Other than succumbing to "Brazilian Butt Overload", we had a remarkable day.

Ok, I will explain the BBO comment.  At the minimum, 9 out of 10 women were wearing very little on their backsides, regardless of age, size, shape, or whatever.  Of course, I now have my own collection of Brazilian bikinis that leave a barer bottom and I love them, but even in Southern California, minimal coverage bikinis are looked at in shock and awe - depending on who is doing the looking.  After awhile, I was just shaking my head at the freedom and confidence the Brazilian women have about their bodies and frankly, it was incredibly refreshing. 

Brazilian butts abound Spectacular skies accompanied from
Rio Quente to Goiania

We spent the next day with Kike and his family and flew back to Curitiba for the usual visits with friends and family and the obligatory bar-b-ques.  We took care a bit of business with Gerson's rental, inspecting the repairs we set in motion before we left, and all was better than expected.   The contractor did a fantastic job and our week ended with relief that that part of business was behind us.


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